Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gay teens coming out earlier to peers and family
Despite wider acceptance, some still feel isolated and harassed
By Marilyn Elias

Kate Haigh, 18, a high school senior in St. Paul, recalls attending her first meeting at the school's Gay-Straight Alliance club when she was in the ninth grade. "I said, 'My name is Kate, and I'm a lesbian.' It was so liberating. I felt like something huge had been lifted off my shoulders, and finally I had people to talk to."

Zach Lundin, 16, has brought boyfriends to several dances at his high school in suburban Seattle.

Vance Smith wanted to start a club to support gay students at his rural Colorado school but says administrators balked. At age 15, Vance contacted a New York advocacy group that sent school officials a letter about students' legal rights. Now 17, Smith has his club.

Gay teenagers are "coming out" earlier than ever, and many feel better about themselves than earlier generations of gays, youth leaders and researchers say. The change is happening in the wake of opinion polls that show growing acceptance of gays, more supportive adults and positive gay role models in popular media.
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